Colin Kaepernick’s “Beats” Ad Plays in Seattle: A Lesson in “What?”

I spent the weekend in Seattle, and it was incredible. I was lucky enough to get tickets to to the Seahawk/Saints playoff game, and by the end of the night I was drained, lost my voice, and satisfied after a rocky but fulfilling home win.

The next morning it was time to watch the 49er/Panther’s game, since its victor would eventually play the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. Even though the Seahawks were headed to the next round, the Niner/Panthers was more than a typical game for the Seahawks as well. For those not necessarily impressed by football, the San Francisco 49er/Seattle Seahawks rivalry is supposed to be one of the best in all sports – not just football, but every sport.

These are two teams that hate each other, and it’s not a contrived hate either – there are personal reasons in addition to sports reasons that the teams are passionate enemies, and the fans keep that passion alive. Ask any Seahawk fan what he thinks of the Niners and there aren’t enough asterisks to censor all of the expletives, and living near San Francisco I know for a fact the Niners fans respond the same way.

Beats by Dr. Dre

So the next day, while watching the San Francisco game in Seattle on television, I was a tad bit surprised to see a commercial for Beats by Dr. Dre starring Colin Kaerpernick (quarterback of the 49ers and one of footballs most polarizing players) playing during the game – right while thousands of potential buyers were watching.

You can watch the commercial here, but because there is a lot of angry yelling I recommend you skip it and I’ll summarize the details:

  • Seattle fans make death threats to ┬áKaepernick.
  • Seattle fans vandalize his bus and have to be taken away by police.
  • Seattle fans are enraged by his presence.
  • Colin Kaepernick tunes all of the annoying fans out because he’s better then all of them using his amazing Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.

There is no good marketing firm that would recommend this marketing strategy. While there is the “all publicity is good publicity” angle, and perhaps they are trying to make the idea of this ad go viral to attract buyers in other cities, Seattle is a headphone city – a city that is notorious for an anti-social personality that walks around with headphones on at all times. While that characterization is unfair, it’s a big risk playing that commercial live in Seattle in the middle of a heated playoff game. There are other ways to get attention.

It costs roughly $350,000 for a 30 second nationally televised commercial during a regular season game. Although it was the playoffs, we’ll work with that number. With an extremely conservative estimate, I would guess that Seattle represents about $15,000 of those advertising dollars. Considering the high profile nature of the game for the Seahawks, that number is probably much higher.

For $15,000, a company could invest in 3,000 pages of content. That’s enough to essentially rule the internet for any search related to headphones, music, and more. In terms of total content on the BeatsbyDre.com site right now, there are maybe 100 pages once you exclude duplicates, and almost none of the pages are keyword targeted, helpful, or visible via search. Unless you search for the product itself or the word “headphones,” you won’t receive a single page.

Small Investments and ROI

Beats by Dre isn’t exactly a struggling company, and any company that shows up for a term like “headphones” has certainly done its fair share of marketing. But consider that Beats by Dre just spent at least $350,000 on a 30 second commercial that angered a significant number of potential buyers. For $350,000, a company like Beats could have 70,000 new pages of interesting or valuable information online, and be the number one source for every possible keyword in the industry and visible all over the world.

When spending advertising dollars it’s important to figure out what would be the best investment. Beats has enough money to run television advertisements, and their Kaepernick commercial was viewed by a significant number of potential buyers. But by cutting out just one of those commercials that they’ve played probably dozens of times over the course of the season, they could have been one of the largest sites on the internet for not only headphones but music in general – and probably not upset thousands of potential consumers in the process.